Diagnosis of Asthma

There is no one single definitive test to diagnose asthma and due to some of its complexities it can take time to confirm a diagnosis.

In the first instance your doctor will take a detailed look at your family and personal medical history along with your environment your lifestyle and the symptoms you are presenting with in order to build up a picture to assist in ascertaining how likely it is that you have asthma.

Initially you may be asked to do a lung function test, which measure how effectively your lungs are working. Based on the information they get from these readings this will enable your doctore to make a diagnosis. It is important to understand that even if you have “normal” readings you may still have asthma, as the symptoms are so variable and the lung function test is just one small part of the overall picture. Lung function results can vary depending on many other external factors including time of day taken and whether or not you may have had a cold or virus in the past 6 weeks or so.

If in the event you are diagnosed with Asthma, there are now many very effective medicines available with which to help you manage your symptoms

 When you’re first diagnosed, you will probably see your GP (Or more usually nowadays an asthma nurse)  a few times to check how you’re feeling and monitor your initial  treatment, After that, it’s important that you book in a scheduled asthma review at least once a year even if your symptoms are well managed. This is so they can check your medicines in case the dose needs to be reduced or increased. It’s also an opportunity to discuss your triggers, lifestyle and any other factors that may affect your asthma, such as hayfever.

Often even before a diagnosis of asthma has been confirmed you are likely to prescribe a “Trial Treatment”. This usually means that for a period of between 2 – 3 weeks you will be given one or more asthma medicines to see if they do alleviate the symptoms. If you don’t have asthma, these doses are very low and the benefits of taking the medicines, to see whether or not you have asthma, far outweigh any potential side effects.

If however you do  respond to these then it is a very good indication you could have asthma. Your treatment is likely to be continued and you will be monitored to make sure you’re taking the lowest dose possible to manage your symptoms effectively.

If you don't respond to the trial of treatment, your GP will check your inhaler technique so that they can be sure you’ve been taking the medicine properly. If you haven’t been taking it correctly, you will probably be asked do another ‘trial of treatment’. If you have been taking it correctly, they may decide to do more tests. Depending on the results, your GP may need to investigate other possible causes for your symptoms. If it’s unlikely you have asthma, you may be referred to a specialist.